A well-known tropical flower and a staple of tropical floral arrangements, the pincushion protea gets its name from its pollen-presenters that resemble pins sticking out of a pincushion. A beautiful flowering shrub with a multitude of colors and varieties, the pincushion protea is a plant that’s beloved by florists everywhere for the bold statement they add to any arrangement or bouquet. Though you may be a little familiar with these flowers, here’s five must-know facts about them.
1. They’re native to Southern Africa
Proteas in general are a species of flowering shrub that’s primarily found along the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Pincushion proteas also grow in some parts of Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. A variety of protea, the king protea, is actually South Africa’s national flower. Pincushion proteas grow in a very harsh environment mainly along the coast, in nutrient-poor acidic soil. Cultivars of pincushion proteas can grow in many climates around the world, as they’re also resistant to cold and only need low levels of water.
2. They live an average of eight years
Pincushion proteas are part of the protea genus of flowering shrubs. These shrubs are perennial, meaning they come back every year and bloom during a particular season. However, these plants only live about eight years on average, until they die off and need to be replaced. Luckily, they have well-developed seed dispersal methods, at least in their native lands; ants take away their seeds and use the fleshy growth on top to feed their larvae, and the hard seed survives and sprouts a new plant.
3. They don’t require fertilizer to thrive
Pincushion proteas live in a very harsh environment where the soil is acidic and doesn’t have many nutrients. These hardy plants can grow in similar soil, and because of their ability to survive where there aren’t many nutrients, they don’t need fertilizer to thrive. This makes them a pretty low-maintenance flower that doesn’t need much care.
Pincushion proteas do, however, need soil with excellent drainage. Too much watering is deadly to all types of protea, and the pincushion is no exception. Gardeners and horticulturists can give them a good soaking once a week, which is all they really need. They also grow well in sandy soil, and indeed, when planting, they’re often planted with a top layer of sand. They do need a full sunlight in order to grow, so they can’t be planted in shady areas.
4. Bloom in late winter or early spring
Pincushion proteas grown in Hawaii or California (the states where these flowers are usually grown in America), typically bloom in late winter or very early spring, which is much earlier than other spring blooms. This translates to about March-April, when most flowering plants don’t bloom until May or June. This makes them very popular in those months, and allows people to get beautiful flower arrangements earlier in the year.
5. They have a great vase life
Pincushion proteas have a longer than average vase life when properly cared for; they can last for up to three weeks cut. When most blooms last no more than two weeks, this makes them an excellent choice for a beautiful, longer-term focal piece. Vase life can be extended by trimming part of the stem daily while in water, and using high-quality plant food. The flower experts at Maui Floral can tell you more about how to care for your tropical flower bouquet and the beautiful pincushion proteas it consists of.